The waiter appeared. "Need a few more minutes?" When Jeff told him they were ready to order, the waiter turned to Molly. Just then her cell phone rang.
"Come back to me," she said to the waiter, and then to the phone, "Hello." The waiter continued around the table, and when he returned to Molly, she was still on the phone. She held up her index finger signing, "Just one second."
The waiter knew just what to do. He said to the table, "Let me know when she's ready," and headed off to place the orders. Somehow he must have known that everyone had to be back by One.
Jeff felt a little irritated with Molly — not only had she taken the call, but she had done so at the table.
Taking a call when you're with others is only one example of cellular rudeness. Here are a few more:
- Why do cell phones
turn otherwise courteous
people into oafs?Forgetting to turn off the ringer in a theater, at a concert, in a restaurant or lecture or workshop or meeting.
- Interrupting a conversation to look at your caller id to decide whether to interrupt your conversation.
- Talking on the phone in what would otherwise be a quiet place, disturbing the people around you.
- Talking while driving, dividing your attention so severely that you can concentrate on neither the conversation nor your driving.
When we notice these things, many of us become irate, even though we might not express our displeasure directly. Why do cell phones turn otherwise courteous people into oafs?
For some, it's about self-esteem.
- For cell phone offenders
- The cell phone can become a badge of importance. By letting the phone interrupt us (and the people around us) no matter what we're doing, we convince ourselves that the people who call us cannot manage without us.
- Most people can manage without us for a while. With rare exceptions, such as literal life-and-death situations, most calls can wait until we pick up our messages.
- For cell phone offendees
- When someone commits an act of cell phone rudeness, we can feel hurt or anger, and sometimes we express that anger in ways we regret.
- When you notice an attack of cell phone anger, remember that the rudeness you're experiencing is — most likely — beyond the awareness of the offender. If you can, tell the offender how you feel. Leave it to her or him to decide what to do about it.
When call waiting first appeared, we often used it inappropriately. We would interrupt a conversation no matter what, to find out what call was coming in. After a while, we learned better ways, and now many people don't check when their phone beeps that a call is waiting. We're just now learning about cell phones. In time, we'll learn how to handle them, too.
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More articles on Emotions at Work:
- Email Happens
- Email is a wonderful medium for some communications, and extremely dangerous for others. What are its
limitations? How can we use email safely?
- Social Safety Margins
- As our personal workloads increase, we endure more stress and more time pressure. Inevitably, we have
less time for the social niceties that protect us from accidentally hurting each other's feelings. When
are we most at risk of incidental harm, and what can we do about it?
- Not Really Part of the Team: II
- When some team members hang back, declining to show initiative, we tend to overlook the possibility
that their behavior is a response to something happening within or around the team. Too often we hold
responsible the person who's hanging back. What other explanations are possible?
- Changing Blaming Cultures
- Culture change in organizations is always challenging, but changing a blaming culture presents special
difficulties. Here are three reasons why.
- Power Affect
- Expressing one's organizational power to others is essential to maintaining it. Expressing power one
does not yet have is just as useful in attaining it.
See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 28: Four Overlooked Email Risks: II
- Email exchanges are notorious for exposing groups to battles that would never occur in face-to-face conversation. But email has other limitations, less-often discussed, that make managing dialog very difficult. Here's Part II of an exploration of some of those risks. Available here and by RSS on March 28.
- And on April 4: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: III
- People who behave narcissistically tend to regard themselves as special. They systematically place their own interests and welfare ahead of anyone or anything else. In this part of the series we consider how this claimed specialness affects the organization and its people. Available here and by RSS on April 4.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.